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Division of Youth and Family Services v. A.O.

October 9, 2009

DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
A.O., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT, AND J.L., DEFENDANT.
IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF A.M.L. AND A.R.L., MINORS.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division-Family Part, Camden County, Docket No. FG-04-63-08.

Per curiam.

RECORD IMPOUNDED

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted: September 16, 2009

Before Judges Cuff, Payne and Waugh.

In this appeal, we review an order terminating the parental rights of A.O., the mother of A.R.L. and A.M.L.*fn1 A.O. argues that the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence each element of the statutory standard. A.O. also contends that the trial judge erred by admitting an evaluation of her oldest daughter, who is not the subject of this appeal and who is not in her custody. We affirm.

A.O. is the mother of three daughters: J.U., who is not the subject of this litigation; A.R.L., born in May 2006; and A.M.L., born in October 2007. Defendant J.L. is the father of the two youngest children.

A.O. and J.L. came to the attention of DYFS on July 22, 2006, when A.O. appeared at a local hospital seeking treatment for injuries sustained in a domestic violence incident with J.L.

She brought her infant daughter, A.R.L., with her; J.L. had been arrested. Believing A.O. was under the influence of a substance, she was tested, and the results were positive for cocaine and opiates. A.O. stated that she felt she could not protect herself from J.L. A DYFS worker at the scene found A.O. incoherent. Although she was not admitted, her infant daughter was not released to her care because hospital personnel and the DYFS worker believed the child would be at risk in A.O.'s care. A.R.L. was placed in the care of the friend who brought A.O. to the hospital, and within days, she was placed with her paternal great-grandmother with whom she remains. J.U., A.O.'s oldest daughter from a prior relationship, was placed in the care of her paternal grandmother.

A.O. was referred to an out-patient drug treatment program but attended only the first session. Between July 28, 2006 and December 12, 2006, the whereabouts of A.O. and J.L. were unknown.

When she reappeared, A.O. attended one psychological evaluation. Although A.O. seemed to minimize her drug use in later clinical interviews, in a February 5, 2007 interview A.O. reported that she last used crack cocaine on February 4, 2007, and used it five times a week and daily if she could get it. One month later, on March 7, 2007, A.O. advised DYFS she was pregnant and unable to enroll in a drug treatment program. Shortly thereafter, DYFS lost contact with her, and her whereabouts were unknown until July 2007. A.O. left several messages for the caseworker, but the caseworker was never able to contact her at the number left by her.

During the period that A.O. and J.L. had no contact with DYFS, they did visit A.R.L., who resided with the paternal great-grandmother. They were dismissive of the paternal great-grandmother's request to call in advance. She reported that both A.O. and J.L. looked terrible and she thought they were living in a motel.

On July 10, 2007, A.O. and J.L. appeared in court for the first time in almost a year. At this time, the paternal great-grandmother requested, and the trial judge ordered, supervised visitation out of her home. At the same time, the court approved a permanency plan of termination of parental rights.

A.O. enrolled in a domestic violence residential program on July 15, 2007, and remained in the program until late August 2007, when she left to reside with her mother. Other services, including visitation, psychological and psychiatric evaluations, parenting skills classes, and ...


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